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Herbie Hancock's autobiography


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Since it doesn't seem to have been mentioned yet --

 

Herbie Hancock's autobio POSSIBILITIES just came out. Since it's available on Kindle and I had a day off, started going through it from the beginning.

 

So far it's well worth reading -- not gossipy, nor technical at a chord voicing level, but well-written and a nice snapshot of Herbie' s experiences and his big-picture aha! moments about music. I'm up to about 1965 so far.

 

Without spoiling it, a couple nuggets that seem new:

* what Zawinul told Hancock about how to make SPEAK LIKE A CHILD

* how a suggestion of Tony Williams changed the PLUGGED NICKEL sessions

* Herbie's sports car showdown with Miles

 

See what you all think . . .

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I heard an NPR piece this morning - interviewing Herbie, I'm guessing as part of promoting the book - talked about getting into crack in his 50's, very personal, sweet -

I did get to see him at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September - rockin' as ever at 74 - absolutely impressive and totally inspiring! Definitely pulling it off on his keytar, not to mention his extra long fazioli...

gig: hammond sk-1 73, neo vent, nord stage 2 76, ancona 34 accordion, cps space station v3

home: steinway m, 1950 hammond c2

 

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I'm going to a Q&A/signing with him next week. :cool:

 

Can you tell us where exactly? NYC area?

 

I'll spare you the LMGTFY link... Just go to Herbie's website where all his book tour dates are listed...

 

I am properly chastised, but because I looked at Herbie's website (for the first time ever), I spent some time looking through his discography and came across of few albums missing from my collection. Now I have no choice but to ask if anyone is familiar with them and has an opinion. (The last image is of Herbie Hancock Trio - 1977).

 

Specifically:

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/ef/Herbie_Hancock_Trio.jpg

 

 

http://www.progarchives.com/progressive_rock_discography_covers/4024/cover_21192114122009.jpg

 

http://www.herbiehancock.com/img/albums/herbiehancocktrio.jpg

 

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Those were all originally Japan-only releases.

 

I love the first and third ones pictured (trio recordings), which Herbie did not do a lot of. Some wonderful tunes on each (Stablemates on the first, That Old Black Magic on the third). They're both valuable resources to hear Herbie playing in that context with Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Such rapport.

 

The middle one is good, but not great to me, as it is a live concert, and everyone overplays a bit at times. Don't get me wrong, I only wish I could overplay at that level... So it is giants in the field of jazz, but I find I don't go to it as often as other recording.

 

Just my 2 cents.

 

Jerry

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Thanks for the reminder! Ordered immediately (even though there are a bunch of other books I should finish first...) :)

 

VSOP is a funny thing; even though the lineup was obviously huge, it was never my bag. Too "fiery" for my taste, lol

 

Of the Japanese releases I prefer 'Dedication', which includes H jamming on Rhodes to a rudimentary drum loop (I think it was actually a sequenced Moog or something).

 

'Direct Step' is cool too, if you like "Disco Herbie".

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VSOP is a funny thing; even though the lineup was obviously huge, it was never my bag. Too "fiery" for my taste, lol

 

I feel similarly. I rarely listen to my VSOP album even though I love the lineup, because it's always seemed kind of sterile to me. Not in a big rush to buy another VSOP record unless someone gave it a strong recommendation.

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I think the VSOP recordings (like many other 1970's straightahead recordings) suffers from terrible upright bass sound. The double bass pickup had been invented and people replaced mics with them.

 

Better sound quality would make those records much more enjoyable.

 

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Now I have no choice but to ask if anyone is familiar with them and has an opinion. (The last image is of Herbie Hancock Trio - 1977).

 

Specifically:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/ef/Herbie_Hancock_Trio.jpg

 

I've had this LP for a long time. I remember paying an arm & a leg for it since it was Japanese import. Good playing by everyone.

 

As usual with Herbie's later work- I could use more straight- ahead lines (like his '60s Blue Note years) and less rhythmic chordal stuff, but that's my personal taste. What he does in the trio here date here, basically is his trademark sound/style from middle to late '70s on to today. Again, great, if you're a fan of that sort of thing.

 

The very cool thing about his treatment of Stablemates- if anyone here might be familiar with the tune- he takes the last four bars of the tune (the part that goes into the Latin groove) :

 

Ebm7| Ab7| Db maj7 | % ||

 

and tags it up a half step. He plays the melody in the key of D then modulates DOWN , back to Db with the melody in Db. Great effect ! After stating the melody in both keys, he then turns the whole section into an 8 bar outro blowing vamp. So it goes like :

 

[:Ebm7| Ab7| Db maj7 | % | Em7 | A7 | D maj7 | % :] and he just loops that section and Tony stretches a bit during that open vamp.

 

Very, very cool. I've played it like this for at least 25 years on gigs. Guys on the gig often think I came up with it since the record is so rare. But I always tell them, it's a Herbie arrangement. ;) Maybe there's a youtube on it. I didn't check.

 

Still the pinnacle of his work for me (and most more serious straight ahead based jazz pianists I know) is his, again, '60s Blue Note work as a leader- and sideman for Wayne Shorter and other Blue Note artists - like Donald Byrd, Jackie McLean to name a few. And of course his work with Miles , which goes without saying.. :cool:

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

 

NY Steinway D

Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, P-515

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I just finished the book and it led me to youtube and other parts of the tubes to refresh my memories. I had a small brush with greatness when my boyhood friend took me to Herbie's house right around the time of Rockit (he was Herbie's manager at the time and the book talks quite a bit about him). The description of Herbie's studio, in back of his house on Doheny Drive, was exactly as I remembered synths stacked up vertically along the walls. I met Bryan Bell, Herbie's engineer and technical genius who configured the pre-midi system for controlling all his synths. Here's an interview I found with Bryan, where it seems some of his answers were used almost word-for-word in the autobiography. For anyone interested in early implementations of getting different electronic musical instruments to talk to each other, this is quite interesting IMO:

 

http://www.kvraudio.com/interviews/a-conversation-with-bryan-bell---stories-about-using-synthesizers-in-the-days-before-midi-and-long-before-plug-ins-18330

 

The highlight of my visit was almost crashing onto Herbie as I turned a corner in his house to use the bathroom I didn't know he was home and he was extremely cool about bumping into a complete stranger inside his house! I wound up having dinner with him but I have to admit I was a little too overwhelmed and tongue-tied to have any deep discussion about jazz or music tech even though I was into both at that time myself.

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As usual with Herbie's later work- I could use more straight- ahead lines (like his '60s Blue Note years) and less rhythmic chordal stuff, but that's my personal taste.

 

Totally agree. I have had the impression that, at some point in the 1970s, Herbie became somewhat bored with creating extended melodic lines, and more interested in exploring "color" or "mood," if that makes any sense. I've sensed the same thing from a few other pianists of his generation, so perhaps it's just a reflection of the time or maybe just another stage for some musicians.

 

Very, very cool. I've played it like this for at least 25 years on gigs. Guys on the gig often think I came up with it since the record is so rare. But I always tell them, it's a Herbie arrangement. ;)

 

This is cool. I intend to steal it and, if anyone asks, shamelessly take full credit for the idea.

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The very cool thing about his treatment of Stablemates- if anyone here might be familiar with the tune- he takes the last four bars of the tune (the part that goes into the Latin groove) :

 

Ebm7| Ab7| Db maj7 | % ||

 

and tags it up a half step. He plays the melody in the key of D then modulates DOWN , back to Db with the melody in Db. Great effect ! After stating the melody in both keys, he then turns the whole section into an 8 bar outro blowing vamp. So it goes like :

 

[:Ebm7| Ab7| Db maj7 | % | Em7 | A7 | D maj7 | % :] and he just loops that section and Tony stretches a bit during that open vamp.

 

Very, very cool. I've played it like this for at least 25 years on gigs. Guys on the gig often think I came up with it since the record is so rare. But I always tell them, it's a Herbie arrangement. ;) Maybe there's a youtube on it. I didn't check.

 

Hi Dave:

 

Are my ears fooling me? I hear him modulating down to a ii-V-I in C (Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 then back up the Db.

 

??

 

Jerry

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[quote........

Still the pinnacle of his work for me (and most more serious straight ahead based jazz pianists I know) is his, again, '60s Blue Note work as a leader- and sideman for Wayne Shorter and other Blue Note artists - like Donald Byrd, Jacskie McLean to name a few. And of course his work with Miles , which goes without saying.. :cool:

 

Dave Ferris

I once upon a time, had enough money to see Herbie w Buster and Foster, for five consequtive nights at The Bluenote in NYC Village.

I am not sure of the year.. anywhere from 1985- 1990.

Dave, on some occasions, it was the most incredibly complex, yet musical music I ever heard HH or anyone play.

A seminal moment in my life.

That long ago... I will just mention a few of my indelible reactions over the five nights ( btw, that is only the second time I ever listened to a major artist 5 days in a row... it is highly recommended )

 

A few impressions

He played Maiden Voyage in totally different ways on a few nights. I am speaking about the metric , groove aspect; almost like a different tune, but not quite.

 

He really prays with his Buddhist deal.

 

He had a long line of fans asking him musical questions, that he actually graciously answered!

 

On the mic, HH admitted to getting lost ( in the musical performance ) a few times!

 

Every night was not at the same level. NO night was boring, or not at a high level. On a few nights, he played astoundingly great.

Not given to smiling much, I recall how impossible it was for me to stop my continuous smile as Herbie Played a particular tune.

 

I was watching him up close one performance of a tune, and said to myself, the term genius is severely overused.. but THIS is a real genius.

 

There were maybe two times, maybe more, where he music he was playing was beyond anything I have ever heard.

I like to use the analogy of a Charles Ives piece, where there is a section of his music moving along, and then Ives has you almost hear another song playing, WHILE the first song is playing.. perhaps like a marching band going by!

 

Well that is my analogy for what the amazing HH did ( ably supported By Buster and Al )

One more example before I try to explain the unexplainable.

I take a solo, and maybe I try to quote a little melody over the top of the tune.. the chord changes. A common practice that I do a tiny bit.

WELL, HH took this practice to unbelievably complex, and yet musical heights.

 

Using contrapuntal thought as a way to explain this; but very modern counterpoint indeed.

HH starts playing the tune... in his improv, he impossibly ( think of Ives example of two songs at once ) starts to introduce not only another melodic idea, but it felt like the rhythm and harmony too. It was as if he were playing tweo songs at once... and is a poor representation of what he did, because the results were musically genius to me.

Normally if someone where to describe this to me, I would think, " too intellectual, too complicated, must not be very musical"

That is why I call HH a true genius.

This is likely the tune ( it is almost irrelevant what the tune was, and it is forgotten ) where HH humbly admitted to the audience at the end of the set that he got lost a few times; no WONDER.

It would take superhuman concentration to do what he successfully did do.

 

Note.. since I have never heard other major pianists, five nights in a row, I cannot say with assurance, that HH is the most inventive, daring, musically developed pianist on planet Earth.

My top pianists in the modern realm ( at least when I was young, Keith, Chick, and McCoy ) but I failed to hear them more than a single engagement in any time period.

Any serious student of jazz, really ought to hear the major players, ( Brad M , Kenny Kirkland RIP ) numerous times in a row. It unveils things, that would remain hidden with infrequent listening to a live show.

 

Final note on this solo I mentioned above

To play with feeling, is a major achievement

To play with recognizable features, a unique style, is a further achievement

To play complex music, with much feeling... is an extremely high achievement; as the complex is often fated to over intellectuality, trumping inspiration.

 

Based on this one week exposure to Herbie's trio, I say HH, for me, is the greatest modern player I have ever experienced.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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